According to the 2019 State of the Global Air report, the Kenyan population is exposed to fine particulate matter (PM2.5) concentrations that exceed the World Health Organization (WHO) air quality guidelines for healthy air. In 2017 alone, air pollution (including exposure to outdoor particulate matter and household air pollution) accounted for about 7% of deaths—nearly 19,000 people—in Kenya.
Data from various sources, including a 2019 study by the Department of Environmental Health, Kenyatta University, show that air quality in Nairobi, Kenya has been rapidly deteriorating over the years and that specific pollutants like volatile organic compounds (VOCs) have increased in the air.
The media is critical in shaping public perceptions as well as policies around air pollution. Journalists can help create enabling environments for both policies as well as community-level engagement. Mainstream media, community media and social media can work in concert to disseminate key messages on air pollution that can potentially change mindsets, behavior and the demand for action from policymakers.
As part of the global Clean Air Catalyst consortium to curb air pollution, EJN selected 10 journalists for story grants, to deepen the coverage of air pollution in Nairobi:
- Charles Gitonga Njeru, Africa Science News Service
- Bosco Christopher Kathima, Ruben FM
- Mercy Tyra Murengu Indeche, MediaMax Network Limited-Milele FM &K24 digital
- Fridah Vihenda Okachi, Mtaani Radio
- Dominic Cheruiyot Kirui, Talk Africa
- Jackson Ambole Okata, The Kenya Times
- Phillys Chemtai Kirui, Kass Media Group
- Lenah Bosibori, Talk Africa
- Jael Chemtai Opicho, Kenya Broadcasting Corporation (KBC)
- John Mwilwatsi, Pamoja FM
Earlier this year, the journalists were part of a larger cohort that participated in EJN’s media workshop in Nairobi, where they deepened their knowledge of the sources, impacts and potential solutions to curb air pollution in the city.
“Our work has shown that journalists in Nairobi do not have adequate resources and knowledge to report on air pollution. At the training workshop, we connected them with policymakers, gender experts, and health and data scientists working on various aspects of air pollution,” said Stella Paul, EJN’s Environment and Health Project Officer. “Now, with these grants, journalists will have the opportunity to utilize their newly learned skills and knowledge to tell in-depth, people-centric stories of air pollution in Nairobi.”
“The grants will also enable journalists to interact closely with local communities that are directly impacted by air pollution. We look forward to seeing some gender-inclusive, impactful stories,” said Paul, who will be mentoring the grantees along with EJN’s project coordinator in Africa, Jackie Lidubwi.
The stories will be published in both Swahili and English in local media outlets and will highlight the disproportionate impacts of air pollution on women, children and families living on the street and on other marginalized communities. They will delve into the various sources of air pollution, from indoor cooking stoves to vehicles to dumpsites and the burning of waste, and highlight strategies and policies being implemented to curb this interconnected environmental, public health and climate crisis.
Look out for grantees’ stories, which will be republished on the EJN website in the coming months.
Banner image: Vehicular traffic, especially motorcycle taxis, known locally as “boda boda”, is a major source of air pollution in Nairobi. Boda Boda drivers are also most vulnerable to air pollution / Credit: Stella Paul.